Q&A with Dusty Lieb, partner of strategic investment, Echo Health Ventures

1. First, just give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it.

I joined Cambia Health Solutions eight years ago, as they were standing up a new group dedicated to strategic corporate venture investing. For four years I was on a Cambia team tasked with supporting the strategy of the core business by using venture investing as a tactic to drive innovation and catalyse change within our organization and the industry at large. Four years ago, we entered into a strategic collaboration with the direct investing team from Mosaic Health Solutions, the corporate investing arm of Blue Cross North Carolina. Through this collaboration, we were able to expand our knowledge, network and scale to yield greater impact for our portfolio companies and our (now) two parent companies.

As a senior member of our strategic investment team, I source, invest in, and support the growth of companies that we believe can become the next great healthcare companies: ones centred around people and their families and building towards future, systemic transformation.

Prior to joining Cambia and Echo, I worked in healthcare-focused investment banking and private equity.

2. What attracted you to CVC?

What most attracted me to Cambia and Echo was the mission-driven nature of the work and focus on transformation of the strategic healthcare investing model. Spending time in the world of traditional, transactional healthcare, it is easy to become cynical about the industry and its impact. But our purpose – to make investments that support our parent companies’ vision and commitments to transformative, consumer-centric healthcare – makes tangible the “why” beyond just creation of financial value.

Investing with a corporate mission and mandate also enables us to deliver outsized value to our portfolio companies. In healthcare especially, innovation is often stifled by the complexity and intransigence of the existing system. By investing in companies centred on people and their families and improving their experience with healthcare, as opposed to those propping up the current system, we can enable entrepreneurs to more effectively deliver transformation by navigating the incumbent infrastructure.

3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit?

Our biggest successes at Echo are when we simultaneously drive value strategic value for our parent companies and portfolio companies. At Echo, we have made multiple investments in consumer-centric healthcare delivery and payments. In payments, I have led our investments in AccessOne, MDsave and Phreesia (2019 IPO). In care delivery, I led our 2019 investment in DispatchHealth, which delivers high-quality care in the home and raised an additional $136 million in early 2020. I also run point on our investments in FastMed and Life Image.

4. What have been your biggest challenges?

Deploying capital while remaining disciplined on pricing has been our biggest challenge over the last three years. Entrepreneurs are increasingly coming to market with transformative, person-centric solutions, but scaling in healthcare remains difficult. Finding high-quality assets that are priced appropriately, especially in the growth equity market, has been our biggest challenge.

5. What is your main professional ambition for the future?

My main ambition is to continue and build on the work that we have done and further accelerate the transformation of the industry by investing in out-of-the-box companies. Building a track record, with regard to both strategic and financial value, while staying true to our mission-driven roots is my number one priority.

6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?

Two things:

i. The real power of CVC, where we can differentiate ourselves and foster a stronger industry, is in the strategic value proposition that we bring to our portfolio companies and parent companies. Investing behind a dual mandate of value creation and innovation for those key stakeholders is critical to the success of the industry as a whole.

ii. More collaboration among CVCs will be critical to accelerating the innovations we can bring to market. There are many powerful platforms that can be used to drive the industry forward, especially in healthcare and collaboration will be key to maximizing the industry’s potential.

7. What are some of your corporate parent’s technology needs and corporate strategy amid the pandemic, as well as your CVC unit’s pain points?

Working from home has presented our parents (and Echo) with the same challenges as most other companies. Maintaining a connection with one’s co-workers has been a primary focus.

As health plans, our parents are increasingly seeking a way that new technologies can enable care in safer, more efficient settings. We have also doubled down on our investment mandate to help support providers within our markets, through investment in technologies to help them transition to value-based care, as well as execute on vaccination distribution when a vaccine becomes available.

8. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time?

Prior to joining Cambia eight years ago, I worked in healthcare M&A at Harris Williams & Co. I also spent time at Fidelity Equity Partners, the private equity arm of Fidelity. I attended the University of Pennsylvania. In my spare time, I enjoy fly fishing, but with two young daughters (five years old and two years old), I rarely find time for that anymore.